Skip to main content

This One's for You, Tapper OR Backyard Brew and Tabletop, Too

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. For many of us, that marks a time full of grilled burgers and cold brews. Previously, we talked about how food might disagree with you, and how to get the help of Peter Pepper at your table top. This year, the focus is on the brew part of the cookout events. While half of Never Say Dice is a teetotaler, that doesn’t mean we can’t all appreciate the strange fun of beer and games. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this year we’re pouring one out for Tapper. We’ll get into a bit of the game's history and its main character. We’ll also put together a Risus version for you to include in your own games. (If you don’t know Risus, fear not! Check out some of our previous Risus posts where we’ve taken inspiration from other classic arcade games, including Gauntlet and Pole Position. (Not to mention out our very own "Introduction to Risus.") So sit back, pour yourself a cold one with us, and enjoy learning about our old friend Tapper (star of Tapper).

If you didn’t grow up with the game, you might only be familiar with Tapper from the Wreck-it-Ralph movies from 2011 and 2018, in which case, you’d be missing out on some interesting arcade game history. Tapper was released by Bally Midway in 1983, but you wouldn’t have found it in arcades at the time. The game was originally sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, and was foaming with Budweiser branding. Their logo was featured on the machine exterior, the marquee, and even in the background of the game itself. The cabinets included a classic bar-style brass rail footrest and drink holders, all to put you in the place of the bartender onscreen, sliding drinks to patrons, rescuing their empties, and doing it all in increasingly strange bars. If you can track down a really old version of the machine, you’ll find yourself using an actual Budweiser beer tap handle. (These were eventually replaced with smaller plastic copies that still featured the Budweiser logo.) The game even featured the Budweiser slogan “This Bud’s for You” during the minigame. All of this meant the machine would only be available in bars.

You may object, “but I remember playing it in an arcade!” If you do, you probably played the Root Beer Tapper version of the game, which featured our hero as a soda jerk serving root beer, once again in strange locales. The original Tapper machine became popular enough in bars that the demand grew enough for it to slide into arcades in 1984. Fearing that it would come across as marketing alcohol to minors, the game was rebranded right down to the slogan in the minigame, which became “this one's for you.” You might also have played one of the various ports of the game on: Apple II, Atari's 8-bit computer family, 2600 and even the ill-fated 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, or Amstrad CPC. If this was how you got your Tapper (note the return to the shorter title), you might have seen an even stranger version that was either Mountain Dew or Pepsi-themed and, bizarrely, went back to the original intoxicant-serving bartender instead of the reworked soda jerk of the Root Beer Tapper. There was even a modern mobile take on the game in 2011 that's unfortunately no longer around. No matter which version of the game you enjoyed, though, it might surprise you to find this wasn’t the main character’s only (or even first) video game entry.

In 1983, but before the release of  Tapper, Bally Midway put out a game called Domino Man with a rather familiar-looking star. Domino Man (of Domino Man)'s goal, as the title implies, was to set up a number of  dominoes while avoiding pedestrians, killer bees, a walking clock for some reason, and, of course, bullies. The similarities between Domino Man and Tapper could be a coincidence... or were Bally Midway trying to create their own mustachioed mascot to compete with Nintendo’s Mario, who had debuted two years earlier? It might sway your opinion to know there was a THIRD game featuring yet another similar-looking character called Timber that Midway released in 1984. Three games worth of material? That's easily enough for a well-rounded Risus character.

There are a few ways we can gather our cliches for this build. The first, and most obvious, is to pull a bit of inspiration from each game. Starting with Domino Man (can we call our character "Domino T. Timber?"), we can focus on that balancing skill…We’ll call it Steady Hands (3), a concept that applies to all three games. This will be useful for things like ranged attacks, balancing, and slight of hand. For another entry, we’ll use Timber and keep it easy with Lumberjacking (3). It’ll require tools of the trade (an axe) and be good for things like axe-throwing, chopping wood, and log walking, (and maybe putting on women’s clothing and hanging around in bars.) Our main inspiration, though, should come from Tapper itself. We’ll give Domino T. Timber Drink Aficionado (4), good for things like telling the difference between Pepsi and Coke and pouring drinks for the masses (both bartending and sodajerking).

The other thing we could do is base our stats on Tapper alone. Conveniently, each of the game's levels takes in place in one of  four different types of bars, which lends to a standard 4, 3, 2, 1 Risus spread. For Western Saloon, we’ll give Tapper Hangover Specialist (2). Good for making home remedies and strong breakfasts. For the Sports Bar, we’ll give Tapper Endurance Champ (4) for all of the running around he does. Heading into the punk rock bar, we’ll set up Tapper with Thrash and Bash (3), giving Tapper the ability to fight and play a few licks on the guitar. Finally, with Tapper in the Space Bar, we’ll give him Alien Relations (1). He knows how to talk to a wide variety of people beings after all. 

Now that you have a few versions of our Tapper hero, you have a couple ways to pour him into one of your games. You don’t have to use these versions, though, feel free to create your own hero based on these loosely-connected games. Or if you’re in the mood for digital games, you have a wide variety of Tappers (and loosely-related sequel and prequel) to try out. Hopefully, at the very least, you'll have a few bits of gaming history to add to your nerdly discussions. Until next time folks, have fun with your games and break some dice!

- A

Send comments and questions to or Tweet them @neversaydice2.


Popular posts from this blog

Devouring "Roll for Sandwich"

Good timezone to Never Say Dice fans, adventures in Aardia, TikTok and beyond. No, I’m not the Roll for Sandwich guy (neither of us is), but if you haven’t heard of him already (or especially if you have), this week I wanted to talk about the TikTok/YouTube show Roll for Sandwich hosted by Jacob Pauwels. The premise is exactly what it sounds like: every episode, the host rolls dice to determine the various items that comprise a sandwich (except when the episode is about s’mores). He assembles the sandwich, then actually eats and critiques his random creation. If it sounds pretty niche to you... it is. You should  probably be both a bit of a foodie and a TTRPG fan in order to truly appreciate both the strange layered creations and the roleplaying references. My eldest son has been so interested in the web series that he decided he wanted to try doing it for himself. So, for the last week of summer this year, we took stock of our cupboards, made our own charts, and proceeded to consume

Be a Grinch! (in a Tabletop RPG)

The Holidays may be almost over (for a while), and we hope you’ve all enjoyed your seasonal music and movies/specials. We here at Never Say Dice have covered the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and the new LEGO edition a few posts ago. A common thing many of us into tabletop RPGS like to do is incorporate media into our games. After all, many of us have grown up with the blending of media and the holidays as a given. It provides us a framework to build on and a common touchpoint to the people at our tables, virtual or otherwise. One classic character featured in holiday specials and commemorated in his own song is the Grinch, the avocado-green villain with strange cardiac growth problems apparently linked to his personality. The Grinch, villain though he may be, has a slew of characteristics that would make the character an excellent one at the gaming table. Those of you not familiar with Suess-lore may really only know the Grinch from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated

An Introduction to Risus

While roaming the internet in the late nineties/early noughties, I came across a TTRPG that was rules-lite and called itself “the anything RPG.” Want to play a high school cheerleader/samurai-in-training part-time goth enthusiast fast food cashier? The hot pink stick figure art glared back at me. Nah, not interested. But I was wrong. The stick figures were actually purple, and Risus is a surprisingly versatile, handy and down right fun TTRPG. I wouldn’t figure that out though till I discovered it again several years later. Even though it was written as a comedy system (and somewhat lighthearted response to GURPS) you really can use it for just about anything: space opera, high fantasy, pulp, vampires,western, any movie setting you could think of...seriously anything. You can read a far more detailed and interesting history in a number of other places should it strike your fancy. It is time for your Risus indoctrination introduction. Risus really is versatile and fairly easy to learn

Willy Wonka - Cartoonish Supervillian or Time Lord?

Every spring, in at least some of the religions practiced in the States, brings yet another holiday full of varied confections: Easter. For some reason, perhaps it’s the candy content or the garish colors associated with the holiday here, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory seems to be the movie that most often comes to my mind. While there are other pieces of media that are more “classically Easter” entries, Willy Wonka just seems to belong here. Perhaps there’s something to those giant eggs, as well. Whatever the reason, it’s in our common consciousness around this time of year, and that has had me thinking about a couple of common internet theories. One common thought is that the titular character Willy Wonka is an incarnation of Doctor Who ’s (only semi-titular) protagonist, the Doctor. The other would have you believe that Willy Wonka is a cartoonish supervillian originating in the DC universe, most likely one of Batman’s adversaries. For this post, let’s go over the arg